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NBA AM: Gallinari on the Road to Recovery

Danilo Gallinari discusses his health and timetable for return while attending adidas Eurocamp in Italy. … Does staying in Minnesota make sense for Kevin Love?

Jesse Blancarte

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Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari talks about his re-hab, getting healthy and what he expects from the Nuggets next season.

Danilo Gallinari Stops by adidas Eurocamp While Rehabbing From Knee Surgery

On April 5, 2013 the Denver Nuggets announced that Danilo Gallinari had torn his ACL playing against the Dallas Mavericks. Gallinari underwent surgery to repair his meniscus, but the surgeons did not repair his ACL, believing it would heal on it’s own. Unfortunately, Gallinari’s ACL did not heal, and he underwent another surgery on January 21, 2014 to reconstruct the torn ligament.

On Monday, Basketball Insiders caught up with Gallinari at adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy to see how his rehab is progressing.

“The body is very good,” Gallinari said. “We are four months out of the last surgery right now, so it’s going to be an interesting summer to recover, especially mentally because the body is feeling pretty good now. I got to get back on the floor and get back and feel the ball, and one-on-one and the five-on-five, so it’s going to be a working summer.”

When asked how it feels to be back on the court, going through basketball drills and exercises, Gallinari said: “It feels great, to have the chance to do what you do everyday, what you love to do everyday, and to not be able to do it for more than one year has been frustrating, but now I can do it, I’m back on the court and it feels great.”

Though he has been on the sideline for over a year, Gallinari has found other ways to improve his game, including how to take care of his body.

“I think that I am much better because you have the chance to focus on other things on the basketball court and maybe when you are playing you don’t do that much, but I think that that part has always been in my nature, always been in my repertoire, so I’ve been feeling pretty good with that,” Gallinari said. “But you have the chance to improve in some part of the game, not just the game, but some part of the body that you didn’t work before. I had the chance to know the knees, both knees a little bit better, to work on the muscles that I didn’t even know that I had those muscles before, so you have the chance to know your body better.”

The process to get back on the court has been long for Gallinari. However, he stays motivated by understanding that a career in the NBA does not last forever.

“I think you only have one life,” Gallinari said. “You only live one life. The basketball career, the average in the NBA is five years, but let’s say that you play a lot of years, or that you play 10 years in the NBA, that’s a small window. In that small window you got to give everything you got, because you don’t want to get old and think about the past, ‘that I should have done this,’ ‘I could have done this,’ so you want to do everything right now.”

At just 25, Gallinari still has time to make the most of that small window. He is surrounded by a lot of other young, talented players who will collectively try to make it back to the playoffs next season after finishing eleventh in the Western Conference this year. Gallinari believes that if the Nuggets can overcome their injury problems, they will be a very competitive team next season.

“I think that we can be a very good team, if we have a healthy team we can be very good,” Gallinari said. “We had a strange season with all these injuries than ever happened I think in the history of the NBA. It’s going to be an interesting year. Everybody is very excited in Denver. I’m excited, all my teammates are excited because we know that we have a good team and we have a chance to shock somebody and our goal is to make it to the playoffs in the best position we can.”

Injuries were the main problem for Denver last season, however, another issue was adjusting to rookie head coach Brian Shaw and his system. Gallinari believes having a year of experience under Shaw will pay off moving forward.

“It’s going to be very helpful,” Gallinari said. “I think he’s a great coach and he showed to us and everybody this year, and everybody loves him. He’s a player’s coach, he’s very close to us. You can talk to him about everything you want, and he’s very close to players and everybody loves to play for him and so that’s one of the most important things. That’s one of the reasons why we are very excited to start training camp.”

For now Gallinari is back home in Treviso, taking in the adidas Eurocamp.

“I think it’s a great opportunity every year, and especially to be back home is great,” Gallinari said. “To see friends, especially to see the young kids growing every year, the level is great and so to have the chance to represent adidas, not just all over the world, but especially in Italy, in Treviso where was one of the first places where Eurocamp was based on is a great opportunity, not just for adidas, and for all these kids, but also for me. To learn about them, to teach them a little bit and to follow them in the process, and also to work with my adidas family, that is always great to travel around the world with them every summer.”

The Nuggets sorely missed Gallinari this season as he is one of the most versatile forwards in the league. Hopefully his rehab continues to progress smoothly so he can help Denver get back to the playoffs, and so he can get back to making the most of his window of time in the NBA.


Blazers forward Nic Batum talks about the season, his team and what he is working on this summer.

Does Staying In Minnesota Make Sense For Love?

Last week, Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio said that he would like to speak directly to Kevin Love about Love’s desire to be traded. Rubio stated that the team had gotten better each year since his rookie season, and Love leaving would undo all that progress. In addition, team president and new head coach Flip Saunders told KFAN 100.3 in Minneapolis-St.Paul that Love did not have the right to be frustrated.

“Just like I told (Kevin) Garnett, he didn’t have a right to be frustrated,” said Saunders. “Why does any player have a right to be frustrated? You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. Should the team be frustrated? Yeah, the team can be frustrated. But I don’t think any one individual should be frustrated.”

Do Rubio and Saunders have a point then? Is Minnesota progressing, and can Love be part of the solution towards towards breaking the Timberwolves’ 10-year playoff drought?

Rubio joined the team in 2011-12, a season in which the team had increased its win total from the previous by nine games, in a lockout shortened season. Since Rubio’s arrival, the team has gone from 17 wins, up to 40 this season. Thus, it seems Rubio is in fact correct, the team is making progress. Nevertheless, Love has still never reached the playoffs, and that is plenty of reason to be frustrated.

This year’s team was projected to break the 10-year drought and compete for a playoff spot. By the end of the season, the Timberwolves had a +2.7 point differential on the season, better than the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies, all of whom finished ahead of Minnesota in the Western Conference standings (10th in the West). Additionally, the Timberwolves finished 10th in offensive efficiency, and 15th in defensive efficiency. So why did the Timberwolves fall well short of making the playoffs?

Most importantly, the team was inexplicably bad at closing games. After losing to the Raptors on January 17, the Wolves were 0-12 in games decided by five points or less. By the end of the season, the Wolves were 6-14 in games decided by five points or less. Simply put, the Wolves lost too many games in the closing minutes for a multitude of reasons.

Some of the other major issues included an anemic bench, poor rim protection, and poor perimeter shooting. The Minnesota starting lineups ranked seventh in the league in offensive efficiency among starting units, whereas the bench ranked 24th in the league in offensive efficiency among benches, which illustrates how big of a drop off there was when players like Love sat.

In addition, the Wolves were incapable of protecting the rim, allowing opponents to shoot 63.1 percent from within five feet of the basket, and blocking 3.6 shots per game, ranking last in the league in both categories. Neither Love, nor Nikola Pekovic could keep opposing players from attacking and finishing at the rim.

Also, the team made just 600 three pointers on the season (17th best in the league), connecting on only 34.1 percent of their attempts (26th best in the league). Outside of Love and Kevin Martin, no one shot at a particularly high percentage from beyond the arc.

Yet, in spite of all these issues, the roster has a solid foundation, and is  in need of tinkering, rather than a complete overhaul. Rubio is not a top-5 point guard, but he is better than he gets credit for. He will soon start training in Los Angeles with a new shooting coach, addressing the biggest issue in his game. Kevin Martin proved to be everything the Oklahoma City Thunder had originally hoped for when they traded James Harden, a wing scorer (19 points per game) and a lethal three point shooter (38.7 percent from beyond the arc). Corey Brewer is probably best suited as a backup small forward, but he filled in admirably as a starter this season, contributing 12.3 points per game, along with almost two steals and two assists. Nikola Pekovic missed 28 games, but is one of the best offensive centers in league when healthy. He is now backed up by Gorgui Dieng, who showed towards the end of the season that he could be a big time contributor at center moving forward. On March 20, Dieng chipped in 22 points, 21 rebounds, 4 assists and made 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Four days later, Dieng scored 15 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block. Most importantly, Dieng addresses one of the biggest issues for the Wolves, as he is a very capable shot blocker. The team also has the 13th pick in the upcoming draft, where players like Doug McDermott, Nik Stauskas, Rodney Hood, and Zach Lavine could still be available.

Minnesota will need to add players who can knock down open jumpers, such as Anthony Morrow, who is set to be a free agent this offseason. Also, Rubio needs to take the next step in his game and join the upper echelon of point guards. In addition, Dieng needs to turn his flashes of brilliance into consistent production, providing a shot blocker down low, and sub for Pekovic off the bench. Lastly, Saunders needs to get more out of the team’s talent than former head coach Rick Adelman did this past season. The progress needed to end the playoff drought and compete may seem like a lot, but the majority of the necessary pieces are already in place.

For now, all indications are that Love has made up his mind, and a reminder from Rubio about the team’s progress will do little to change that. The frustration and issues go beyond missing the playoffs each season, and a move to teams like the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, or Golden State Warriors is simply more appealing to Love at this point. Yet, when considering Rubio’s comment about the team’s progress and taking a look at the pieces already in place, maybe giving the Timberwolves at least one more year makes more sense than Love realizes.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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